THE Center for Constitutionalism and Legal Justice Director Isaac Mwanza has appealed to President Hakainde Hichilema to reconsider his decision to formally put the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) under his office, a move which has the potential to compromise the independence of the Commission.
“The new Administration of President Hichilema has, through Gazette Notice No. 1123 of 2021 formally put the ACC, the newly created Anti Financial and Economics Crimes Commission, and Office of the Public Protector, among other institutions, under his Office.
“A brief history shows that the fight to liberate the Anti-Corruption Commission from being controlled or being seen to be controlled by the Presidency had been a long fight which involved the then vibrant civil society movement and the Law Association of Zambia,” he said.
“Between 1980 and 2012, the President was not only seen as having a strong hand in directing the fight against corruption as the law had allowed him to control the Commission and make regulations associated with the crusade.
“The Anti- Corruption (Disposable of Recovered Property) Regulations, 2004 is one example of a presidential hand in directing the fight,”.
In a statement, Mr Mwanza said: “This controlling practice of the ACC by politicians continued into the 2010 ACC Act but it was not until 2012 when the then new Patriotic Front administration under President Sata showed political will by removing the President from making regulations and gave the Commission an autonomous status, which was later confirmed by the Constitutional Amendments in 2016.”
Against this background, he said, Zambia achieved some milestones by giving the ACC the required autonomy against being controlled or being seen to be controlled by politicians.
“The current actions by the new administration is threatening the gains and may be seen as taking away that power by placing the Commission under the office of the President,” said Mwanza.
He added that President Hichilema may be placing these important institutions under his control with a good intention but the end result can be disastrous.
Mwanza said usually, it is other people around the Presidency who begin to use these institutions to wage a war against perceived political enemies or they begin to use them to shield themselves from being investigated by the very institutions they have under their control.
Mwanza said the fight against corruption will become questionable or compromised when institutions tasked to discharge such a crucial mandate are placed under political offices.
“The concern becomes even greater as the new dawn administration has indicated that it will setup fast trucks courts, which courts other people believe will be “kangaroo courts” meant to fast track the “fixing” of perceived political opponents.
“Finally, the Center is aware that all Commissions are now established by the Constitution. We believe establishing a Commission is not same as establishing a government ministry or department, which can be established at the will of the President.
“We therefore ask President Hichilema to refer to Parliament the establishment of the Anti-Financial and Economics Crimes Commission, which would require amending the Constitution, if the same will have to be constitutionally.” – Lusaka Times